Whether or not the average Catholic attends Confession often, it’s certainly culturally understood by many, both inside and outside of the Church, as a signature feature of Catholic practice. Movies, books, and other media abound with images of Confession, or references to it.
Before becoming Catholic, or before returning to the Church, what did you think about the sacrament of Reconciliation? Did you think it was unbiblical? Did you wish your own church had something similar to it? What misunderstandings did you have about the sacrament?
Here’s what some of our members and readers have shared with us about their perceptions of – or misconceptions about – Confession:
“There’s nothing like the safety of the confessional, is there? Before my conversion and for some time afterwards, I didn’t have good boundaries in terms of to whom I confessed my sins. I’m a scrupulous person and a compulsive apologizer, and in my insecurity and self-doubt I would tell anyone who I might have offended my long litany of sins and human faults. This never satisfied. But now I have the Church, who gives me a safe place to approach God through the person of the priest and lay bare my soul—and being absolved does satisfy.”
-Rhonda Ortiz, Art Director, “Dappled Things”
“There were times in my life before becoming Catholic that I wished I was Catholic just so that I could confess to a priest and hear that my sins were forgiven. While I believed that it wasn’t necessary, at the same time time I struggled with guilt and never truly experienced the peace that comes from absolution, until my first confession. I remember shortly after starting RCIA, I asked the leader ‘when can I go to confession?'”
Robin S., via Facebook
“I spent many years as a pastor encouraging folks to find an individual or small group of individuals that could be trusted, confess their sins and find counsel. Let’s admit – there is something powerful, when done, about confessing “our sins” to another human being.
From my vantage point as a pastor this activity rarely if ever happened. The act of actually confessing is hard – we naturally hesitate, people are skeptical that others will hold a confidence and there is no authority to forgive (in protestantism) – Jesus alone can forgive. For the protestant, scripture & Jesus are all you need.
Let me say this, as a convert to Catholicism, I appreciate my confessor!”
-Eric Neubauer, 21centurypilgrim.com
“I didn’t understand why Catholics went to confession and had a super inaccurate view of what penance was all about. I though of it as a superficial rule and had no idea it was a Sacrament! I was pretty flippant and disrespectful about it at the time, which is unfortunate. Ignorance is not necessarily bliss.”
Stefanie A., via Facebook
“As a former Protestant who grew up in many different denominations within the Evangelical Tradition, I was raised with the understanding that I could confess my sins privately and directly to God at any time — and that is of course true. However, what I did not realize until I became Catholic was that my conscience — the thing that alerted me to sin — was not very in tune with the extent of my sinful behaviors or the roots of those behaviors. Through the sacrament of reconciliation and guided, thorough examinations of conscience, my conscience became better formed and informed. The Holy Spirit began to show me what sins needed to be confessed to set me on a path of freedom.”
–Dr. Jessica Ptomey, jessicaptomey.com
“I spent 25 years away from the Catholic Church, considering myself an atheist from the age of 18 to 43. God is truly merciful, for my soul did not feel particularly burdened for decades, until I had a professional crisis at the age of 38 that brought me for the first (and last, Lord willing) time into the throes of depression…
It was not for another five years that the stirrings of the Holy Spirit (and the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas) would bring me back to Christ and the Church. Then, in the sacrament of reconciliation, for the first time in a quarter of a century, through that priest in the person of Christ, my sins were truly forgiven and my soul was at last unburdened. I could not obtain that unburdening and fully recover my hope from family or friends or from the wisest sages in all of the world, but only through Jesus Christ.”
-Dr Kevin Vost, author of “The Porch and the Cross”
What about you? What did you think of Confession before exploring Church teaching on it? Please share in the comments below!